Reed is working as an R&D engineer at a medical implants company in Boston. His job is very demanding and he often finds himself working more than 10 hours a day. When he finally gets back home, he feels exhausted and watches Netflix for the rest of the night. He often makes it to bed past midnight and wakes up early in the morning feeling exhausted, groggy and irritable. Reed knows that these symptoms have something to do with his sleeping habits but he feels that he can catch up on sleep on the weekends. We all have commitments and other rituals that cut into our sleep time. What sleep habits could Reed adopt so that he gets a good nights sleep and feels refreshed in the morning? Let’s find out:
Go to bed early and wake up early
Have you ever heard the expression the early bird gets the worm? Not only does going to bed early and waking up early help ensure you get enough sleep and have more time in the morning to be productive, it also increases the quality of your sleep. In the book “Sleep Smarter” by Shawn Stevenson, Shawn talks about how your “money time” sleep is between 10 pm and 2 am. This is the time range where your body is conditioned to get its best REM sleep.
The longer you stay in REM sleep, the more rejuvenated you feel in the morning. I personally go to sleep at 10 pm and wake up at 5 am. Ever since adopting this schedule I’ve noticed I wake up feeling rejuvenated and I have more time in the morning to dedicate to other activities. Make the commitment to go to bed early and wake up early and I promise you’ll see a difference in your sleep quality.
Get more sunlight
This one came as a surprise to me when I first read about it. Your body needs vitamin D to help build strong bones and support your immune system. Since your body can’t produce vitamin D naturally, the best source of this vitamin is through direct sunlight. Your pineal gland produces melatonin roughly in approximation to the contrast of bright sun exposure in the day and complete darkness at night. Melatonin is known as the sleep hormone and helps you fall asleep and stay asleep. You don’t need to be outside for a long time either. You can get your daily recommended dose of vitamin D in as little as 15 minutes per day! Make the commitment to take a 15 minute walk before work. This new habit may help you sleep like a baby.
Curb caffeine consumption
Caffeine consumption before bed is one of the most common causes for lack of restful sleep. Considering the average American consumes 3.2 cups of coffee a day, it’s easy to see why this is the case. Caffeine has a half life of 5-6 hours so if you consume coffee at 5 pm, you will still have ½ the caffeine in your system by 11 pm. Caffeine inhibits receptors in your brain from taking in Adenosine.
Adenosine is a chemical that makes you feel drowsy and aids in the sleeping process. If caffeine is consumed too close to bed time, it can have a significantly negative effect on the quality of your sleep. Coffee can be a great way to give you a boost in the morning but it’s important not to let it become a crutch. Limit your caffeine intake and make sure to not consume caffeine after 2 pm in the afternoon to help insure that you get a good nights sleep.
Turn off screens before bed
This step is the most difficult for most people. Turning off all screens 1 hour before going to bed will have the most impactful effect on your sleep quality. The blue light emitted by your cell phone/TV inhibits your body’s production of melatonin. This causes your body to take longer to fall into deep REM sleep. Since your body experiences the most rejuvenating sleep when you’re in REM sleep, losing just 1 hour of REM sleep can cause you to feel groggy and irritable the next day. Although this may seem difficult, it is recommended that you avoid screen time for at least 1 hour before bed time. Take this extra time to connect with loved ones, play board games and/or read a good book.
If you absolutely can’t pull yourself away from your computer/mobile device, there are some applications out there that help REDUCE the effect your devices have on your ability to produce melatonin. Flux is a computer application that helps remove some of the harmful blue light emitted from your computer and replaces it with red light. Red light is less harmful to your body’s natural production of melatonin. If you have an iPhone, there is a feature called “Night Shift” that has similar functionality to Flux.
Black out curtains
Of all the tips that I’ve shared in this article, this is probably the easiest to implement. As we discussed previously, blue light has a detrimental effect on sleep quality. If you live in an area where there are lights on at night (i.e. cities, suburban areas etc.) you’re constantly being bombarded by blue light as you sleep. Your body is expecting it to be pitch black when you go to sleep so when you have these lights shining; it diminishes your sleep quality. I was able to buy a black out curtain from amazon for a very reasonable price. Check out the link provided (Black Out Curtains). This simple implementation has improved my sleep quality substantially and without much effort.
Bringing it all together
After a few days of being exhausted and irritable at work Reed knew he had to make some changes. He started off by setting a caffeine curfew of 2 pm. This helped him wind down better at the end of the day. When he got home, he’d use his electronic devices but implemented a curfew of 1 hour before he went to bed. During that hour of no screen time, he would sit down and read a good informational book.
Once he was done with his book, he would set his alarm for early in the morning and doze off. Reed had decided to buy some black out curtains on amazon and immediately noticed his sleep quality improve. The next morning he would wake up, read his book for 30 minutes and then take a brisk 15 minute walk outside to get some sunlight. After adopting this regimen for a week, Reed experienced some of the best sleep he’s had in a long time. He’s happy with his new regimen and doesn’t plan on changing it any time soon.
Sleep is an important part of our existence. Without proper sleep, we will float through the day in a haze and won’t be able to perform up to our true potential. Getting a good nights sleep is crucial to your health and continued success so make sure you make it a priority in your life. Do any of you have sleep tips that our audience might find useful? I’d love to hear from you.
My book recommendation for this article is “Sleep Smarter” by Shawn Stevenson. In the book Shawn gives you a blueprint on how you can orchestrate your best night sleep. I’ve used many of the techniques talked about in the book and have noticed immediate changes in my sleep quality. I highly recommend this book. Check out the link below: